Diocese of Rockville Centre

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May 23, 2012 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 51, No. 8  | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY

Bishop Murphy’s homily at Molloy College’s Commencement Mass, held May 18 at St. Agnes Cathedral

When a bishop ordains a priest, the first thing that happens is that his name is called out before all the people gathered here in the cathedral. The candidate answers “Present” and then is questioned about his willingness and commitment to fulfill the office of priest as servant leader and pastor of the Church. In my day it was all done in Latin and the answer was ADSUM. That means present but much more: it means I am present and I am ready. In a certain sense today is your ADSUM. As you come to commencement day after completing all the requirements for the degree you are about to receive,  you are here to place yourselves in the presence of God and, with great joy and great hope, say your Adsum, “I am ready, made ready by my Molloy experience,” made ready by what I have given to it and it has given to me, ready by these years of education and formation to go out and bring the gifts I have received and the talents I have honed to fulfill my goals, to live a fruitful and satisfying life shaped by the ideals and truths that only a solid and substantial Catholic education can give me! 

What a cause for joy that is! And how happy and privileged I feel as a member of the board and as the bishop who has spiritual responsibility for you and for Molloy College. You are part of a community of women and men whose lives have been shaped by this college. This college is more than an institution, more than a place where “I can get what I want” or “grab what I need.” For what has been offered to each of you is more than what you need to know, more than a convenience store to pick up what you want. This college, by virtue of its founding by the Dominican Sisters of Amityville and its continuance by all who commit themselves to it, is a society, is a community of learning and life, of truth and virtue. There is a commitment here that I pray you have made your own. That commitment is to live a life that is founded on truth and built upon an informed conscience. It includes being committed to the good not just of ourselves but the good of all joined to a desire to contribute to the future flourishing of society by helping to shape the common good of ourselves, our nation and our world.

Today at this commencement Mass I want to offer you a source for your continued development in the ideals of truth, honesty, integrity and seeking the common good that is the basis of true justice and lasting peace. That is what is commonly called the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is not the moment for me to offer the cliff notes of a course I have taught in several universities and seminaries in earlier portions of my priestly life. It is a moment, however, to press on you my conviction that the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is the most fruitful source to guide your life in society that you can ever make your own. Every bishop is called to be a teacher. And as a good teacher should, let me first offer you source materials. The source is the Second Vatican Council, now celebrating fifty years since its inception. Blessed John Paul II called it the most important religious event of the 20th century. The materials for reading I want to recommend are two small sections of its 16 documents. The first is chapter one of the document on the Church, Lumen Gentium. It is called the Mystery of Salvation and it is only seven pages long! The second is Part One of the Document of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. That is much longer, 32 pages long.  But they are small pages in a paperback edition as well as on line.

The first document will teach you about the real meaning of being members of this community of communion which is the Church, the Church which is the mystery or sacrament of God’s unity with all humankind; our Catholic Church is the sacrament or arrow point whose life shows the world how to live as one. It points out the ways that not only we, disciples of Christ, but all members of the human family, can live in solidarity building a world of justice and peace with one another. The second will give you a vision of human life and the dignity of every human person. It sets forth our relationship with the God who gives us that dignity and endows us with human rights that can never be granted or taken away by any human authority. This will offer you a Christian anthropology of sin and grace, of Christ’s redeeming and transforming love. This proclamation of human life and flourishing finds its fulfillment in God Who is the ultimate goal of every human person and every society. This is life with and in God, life lived to the full as free human beings who are enabled by God’s gift to be self transcendent and to build societies of truth, justice, freedom and peace. This will give you the means to judge our own contemporary society and, when needed, be spokespersons for those who are vulnerable or marginalized, those whose lives are threatened or whose freedom is being denied, those who are denied equality by the forces of power or greed.  In short the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is the best source for us all to be informed and guided into lives that are meaningful, full, satisfying and uplifting.  It will help you achieve a life of virtue and share a life that advances human flourishing for all humankind.

Practically speaking it is everything that Isaiah, in today’s first reading, tells us is what God wants us to do and how God wants us to live: caring for others, especially those most in need.  In short, it means heeding Paul’s wisdom in the second reading: PUT ON all those virtues which make you a true disciple of Christ.  Make them the clothing of your heart and mind, your soul and your body. Bearing with one another, forgiving one another. And above all PUT ON LOVE WHICH IS THE BOND OF PERFECTION.

The other night I said Mass with the priests who celebrated fifty years of priesthood. I thanked them for their service as priests with the words of today’s Gospel: YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH. YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. For the past fifty years that is what those priests have been. To you, my dear friends, now at the beginning of your careers or the renewal of your lives through Molloy, to you who say ADSUM: I AM READY: I say:

BE THE SALT OF THE EARTH!  BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! The world needs you to be that. The earth thirsts for you to fulfill that commitment. AND WHATEVER YOU DO, IN WORD OR IN DEED, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS AMEN.


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